San Jose Sharks: Five Players To Look Forward to Next Season
The San Jose Sharks did accomplish something significant in the 2009-10 NHL season.
For what it's worth, they are no longer the biggest choke artists in hockey. That title belongs to the Washington Capitals.
And while that clearly isn't enough for San Jose's fan base to completely rejoice in, the reality is that they did overcome some demons in this postseason.
You don't just beat the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff series and shrug it off as another collapse.
If anything, this year's postseason should have proved to both the team and the fans that any curse placed on the Sharks is now broken.
Yes, the Sharks are allowed to get past the second round and yes, they can beat the best of the best.
While they did get swept in the Conference Final, it wasn't as if they were thoroughly dominated. In fact, you could make the case that goaltending aside; they out-played Chicago in three of the four games.
So cool you're jets Sharks fans that are calling for even, dare I say it, Dan Boyle to be traded.
Don't overreact so quickly.
The Sharks have a strong core foundation and only a few tweaks need to be made.
But since there is an almost unlimited amount of possible changes to make before next season begins, it makes no sense to focus on who may or may not be in teal next year.
So I will not be getting into what players Sharks fans might be able to watch game in and game out next season, rather I will discuss some of the players that will for sure be back in teal next season.
After all, despite a large amount of free agents, its not as if the whole team needs to be resigned.
There are plenty of players under contract that will bring more to the table next season.
Without further ado, here are five talented young players who have the ability to make large strides in San Jose next year.
Throughout the playoffs and for the entirety of the Conference Final, the San Jose Sharks went with seven defenseman.
And in the minds of most fans around the league, that was a critical mistake by head coach Todd McLellan.
Now mistake or not, obviously McLellan didn't feel comfortable with either Jed Ortmeyer, Dwight Helminen or Brad Staubitz playing the role of 12th forward.
What is the answer?
Enter Frazer McLaren.
McLaren, the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba will be turning 23 at the start of next season and can fill the spot on the fourth line better than any other candidate.
At 6'4, 225 lbs., McLaren brings a physically imposing body that he can still grow into. In just his early 20's don't be surprised if he puts on another 15-20 pounds of muscle as he hits his prime.
That's right, the Sharks could have themselves a potential 6'4" 245 lb. enforcer down the line.
But even at his current weight, McLaren brings an intimidating presence on the fourth line, as he is willing to drop the gloves with anybody in the league.
However, it is not just his toughness that is of value. Unlike fellow tough guy and teammate Brad Staubitz, McLaren actually brings a solid set of offensive and defensive skills to the table.
In his first stint of NHL action, McLaren played in 23 games with the Sharks this season and posted a solid six points and a plus-six plus/minus rating.
Over that span, McLaren was guilty of just one minor penalty, showing great discipline for a player in his bruising fourth line role.
Not only will McLaren end up replacing the recently traded away Jody Shelley as the team's main "enforcer" for years to come, but he actually has the talent to continue playing in the postseason.
Look for McLaren to be a big part of the Sharks next season.
San Jose's backup may be untested, but with the recent success of young goalies in the postseason, Greiss will get his chance to shine next season.
Even if the Sharks resign Evgeni Nabokov (which appears unlikely) or pickup another experienced goalie over the offseason, Greiss will see much more action in 2010-11.
And clearly, the German native deserves every bit of the extended action between the pipes he will get.
Despite starting just 11 games this season, Greiss proved to be rock solid every time his name was called.
During those 11 contests, Greiss came through with a 7-3-1 record, a .926 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average.
In other words, Greiss posted better numbers than Nabokov did while playing about two games a month.
It is no sure thing for the German Olympian to match these numbers over a full season as a starter, but he has earned his opportunity to show that his 2009-10 marks were no fluke.
"Ginner" as Sharks fans call him, may have gone pointless in these playoffs for San Jose, but make no mistake about it, he has 20+ goal potential written all over him.
Now at 6'0", 180 lbs., McGinn doesn't have the size of a Ryane Clowe nor the sheer speed of a Patrick Marleau but he has the work ethic of Dan Boyle and the shot of Joe Pavelski.
During the regular season, McGinn tallied just 10 goals and 13 points but he did so in merely 58 games while playing on the bottom two lines.
Bump his total played games up to a full 82 games, and add about five minutes of ice time up per game, and even without natural improvement from year to year, McGinn would deposit 20 goals next season.
As mentioned above, his shot is as lethal as Joe Pavelski's, and similar to that of Torrey Mitchell and Scott Nichol, he is relentless on the forecheck.
With McGinn's presence on the club, and his prime years on the horizon, trading away a guy like Ryane Clowe or letting Patrick Marleau walk as a free agent wouldn't be a crazy thought.
McGinn has more than enough talent to fill in a spot on one of the top-two scoring lines.
Sharks fans should definitely be looking forward to more of McGinn on the ice next season.
San Jose's first round draft choice (ninth overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft finally made the jump to professional hockey this season.
And boy did he arrive in style. Logan Couture, or "Juicy Couture" as fans call him, or "Wolverine" as I call him was nothing but studly in his first year as a pro.
Couture was an AHL all-star and top-5 point getter in the NHL's minor league before being called up to the big show for good in Mid-March.
During his second stint at the NHL level, Couture proved he belonged on the playoff roster with an impressive six points and plus-six plus/minus rating in 13 games down the stretch.
The rookie would add four more goals in the playoffs and ended up a plus-one for the tournament.
And let's not forget that the kid just turned 21 years old in late March. In his first year of pro hockey he dominated the AHL, and then became a solid playoff contributor in the Stanley Cup playoffs?
Talk about an impressive debut.
Not only did he learn quickly, but he also has yet to tap into a fraction of his potential.
Fans say the Sharks need more scoring depth? Well, Couture is the answer to that problem.
It is only a matter of time before Couture is a consistent 60+ point player during the regular season.
Sharks fans: Meet your newest top-4 defenseman.
His name is Jason Demers.
While he was an adventure defensively during his rookie season, Demers proved to be an extremely valuable offensive presence from the blueline.
Even on a team filled with superstars, Demers saw himself on the number one power play unit at the beginning of the season.
Now lack of a defensive focus pulled him off the top unit, but four goals and 21 points in 51 games as a rookie speaks volumes to his potential to take over for Rob Blake.
And in 15 playoff games, Demers chipped in with five huge points.
That may not seem like much, but when you consider he barely played five minutes a game in the postseason, five points looks much more like 10 points had he been given top-4 playing time.
Defensively Demers is still suspect, but he played much better down the stretch and in limited playoff action.
The experience gained playing in this year's postseason will only help Demers improve his defensive abilities.
In a couple of years, Demers could be just as good as Dan Boyle is currently.
Two Dan Boyles on one team?
Now that's something Sharks fans should be drooling over. And it's not far away from happening.